1300 miles. 4 vehicles. 6 people. 2 dogs.
Ride along with us as we take an overland adventure trip through Baja, Mexico.
It’s 5:00am. Seriously?! It’s still dark!!! But the moon reflecting off the ocean waves from our balcony – now that is something amazing.
After a quick shower we are all packed and ready to hit the road. First though: a stop at the neighborhood coffee shop. Run by an American and her Mexican husband – wonderful cheerful people – the coffee is much-needed and quite good. They even open their doors for us an hour earlier than they normally do. Thank you!
Today’s route takes us down through Ensenada, and across the peninsula to San Filipe on highway Mexi3. The landscape is hilly, the roads are winding, and the feeling in the air is serene excitement. This could be any road in southern California, but often something will strike out as clearly foreign. From a group of plants unseen in the US to a boulder pile that looks oddly alien. And of course the giant Jesus statue.
The tiny towns spotted along the coastline, devoid of uber-commercial construction and showing no signs of super-capitalist expansion through compression, begin to plant a different perspective on what is success and luxury and what happiness really means. A perspective that will continue to be pondered and thought about throughout this journey. A perspective that still today gives me pause for reflection.
It’s only 10:30am but our band of travelers is feeling the need for tacos and Tecates. Driving into a little town with Mexi3 as the main street, we pull off in front of a building that has signage for a restaurant. Inside, the restaurant is really what was once a front porch that has been converted to have walls, some seating, and an order window which looks into the family’s kitchen. The ceiling is quite weathered, the place feels run down, and there is a display case full of “fresh” (?) tamales. Tacos are ordered and the mother of this household sets about to cooking in her kitchen.
A few of us decide to ask to use their restroom. Cutting through their house we find their bathroom which is strangely placed in the house. The floors are terribly uneven, the smell is a bit pungent, and the shower does not know about modern cleaning chemicals. The people who live here have their little road-side food stand and they sustain a life here. Perhaps they are perfectly happy. They have their home, their business, and everything they need right here. Another tick in the perspective wheel I do believe.
Tacos are eaten and no one becomes ill. Later we will come to realize that the lady stole our salsa! (though it will be rumored that someone accidentally gave it to her…). But for now we are back on the road.
In San Filipe the highway disappears inside the city, and we find ourselves a bit lost. Luckily the black Jeep (ours) has some Baja maps on its in-dash GPS. Yeah – that’s standard on the 13. This tool will prove to be invaluable on several occasions during the trip, and we make our way out of the city to head toward Gonzaga Bay (passing through a strange intersection where it appears we will all be struck by oncoming traffic. Thank you 13!).
Outside of San Filipe we stop at a larger restaurant named El Colorado for some lunch and to meet up with Phin’s sister and their group of merry travelers who will be sharing our campsite tonight. We are early for the meetup, so we sit down to a relaxing round of food and Tecate.
The owner is very friendly and the fish tacos were very different but quite good. And the shrimp cocktail ceviche cup that Phin ordered was huge and chock full of shrimp. After our fellow travelers arrive and we exchange some introductions and talk about the road, we head out again towards Gonzaga Bay where we will meet up again for the night.
The road approaching Gonzaga is another coastline road along the gulf side of the state. In the distance in the water are towering rock islands like mountains coming up out of the ocean. Truly spectacular to see. It is still striking to not see massive development along this beautiful section of majestic ocean views.
We stop at a small market to buy some firewood out of the back of a pickup truck. Here we see what is truly a unique and quite amazing truck that can only be described as a zombie apocalypse escape vehicle. Huge orange paddy wagon style vehicle with no windows but the windshield (keeps those zombies out of the cab you see), 2 large cans of water and 6 cans of gas mounted to the outside (probably gets about 7 MPG so is a bit of a necessity), roof rack, brush guard, big tires, and of COURSE it requires 5 people to push it about 100 feet (which Sid was happy to help with). Somehow, no one captured a picture of this beast, so here is an artist rendering if what it looked like:
~EDIT: someone did pull one pic~
After a short time travelling down the paved road to Gonzaga, signs appear showing a detour from the main road. The detour is really a jarring broken dirt road, and we find where the paved road simply ends on a half finished bridge. Looks like it will be off-road travel the rest of the way in. It is here that we discover a strange field…a field of bottles! How and why are they all here…I do not know.
Arriving at Gonzaga Bay, we find the secluded beach camping with palapa covers dotting the beach. However: it is Easter weekend, and in Mexico that means the locals flock to the beaches for some time off. The beach is anything but secluded and there is not a parking spot anywhere to be found, much less a palapa to camp next to. Vehicles, tents, generators, boom boxes and dozens of people have descended upon our little slice of heaven and it looks like our plans will have to change.
Our fellow travellers have also arrived (how did they beat us here? There was no missing us on the detour road). We split into groups exploring the area for another spot to call home for the evening. One campground we looked into was El Sacrificio. Stay at a strange camp that makes reference to sacrifice? Has no one seen From Dusk Till Dawn?! Luckily it too is overcrowded so we move on.
Driving in the desert with a distant view of the bay while the sun gets all too low on the horizon we pull off the dirt path into the soft sand and silt of the desert floor. This is where we will camp for the night.
Everyone sets about setting up their various camping rigs. Phin flips open and assembles his rooftop tent complete with changing room. We unload our supplies from the Jeep and inflate our bed on the inside. The fellow travelers set-up their impressive camping shells complete with porch lights. Everyone eats their dinner and snacks while sharing some with the group. Popcorn, ribs, cookies, and of course plenty of cerveza throughout the camp. Sid digs us a hole for our bonfire and sets about getting the fire started, as Medi captures some baby scorpions that glow neon in his black-light flashlight and proceeds to freak out the girls with them. Finally the group begins to gather by the fire for some talk and drinks…and music.
The fellow travelers have a group of 3 musicians with them: a fiddle, a bass and a guitar. They play a few songs for us and it is quite good and entertaining after a long day of driving. We have also brought our guitar and bass and after some prodding from the group we bring out our instruments and play some songs as well. A good time was had by all with music, fire, beer, and of course good company. The group around the fire slowly dwindles as people decide to hit the hay for the night. Finally the last of us decide to do the same. Goodnight everyone.
As we settle in for the night, we leave our rear window open as the air is cool but very comfortable. A nice breeze comes into our bedroom as we lay our heads down in our new 4×4 apartment. The only sound is the sound of the wind, an occasional tent flap, a distant coyote, and us accidentally setting off our car alarm at around 2:30 in the morning. Crap! Sorry everybody….you can go back to sleep.
-to be continued-